What Are the Healthiest Nuts?
Dr. Kristie Leong
More and more studies are showing that eating nuts on a regular basis is a healthy habit. Nuts are a rich source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the so called "good fats", and are high in protein. Because of the monounsaturated fats, nuts have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and may help to promote weight loss despite their relatively high calorie content. This raises the question - What are the healthiest nuts? While all nuts are considered to be healthy, there are three that have been studied more extensively and found to have documented health benefits.
In addition to the heart protective monounsaturated fats in almonds, their skins also contain flavonoids, compounds which are thought to protect cells against free radical damage. The combination of the monounsaturated fats and flavonoids in almonds provide double protection against heart disease. It's thought that the flavonoids found in almonds may also protect against certain types of cancer, although studies are still ongoing to document this. Eating a handful of almonds each day has been shown in studies to lower cholesterol levels by up to four percent.
Walnuts make the list because of their unusually high content of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3's have been shown to lower triglyceride levels and protect against heart disease. Walnuts have the distinction of being the nut with the highest omega 3 levels. They've also been shown to protect the arteries after consuming a high fat meal which may help to ward off heart attacks if eaten on a consistent basis. They're also a good source of antioxidants which helps to protect the body against cancer and the brain against degenerative changes.
Pistachios may be one of the best nuts for lowering your cholesterol. A study in which volunteers were given a diet consisting of twenty percent pistachios had their cholesterol levels lowered by around twelve percent. It's thought that the high monounsaturated fat and phytosterol content in pistachios may be responsible for this effect. Pistachios are also a good source of antioxidants.
The bottom line? Adding a variety of nuts to your diet is probably the best approach so you can benefit from the health potential of each. Because all nuts are calorie dense, restrict your intake to a handful each day if you're trying to control your weight. Instead of eating them as a snack, use nuts as a substitute for food you'd normally eat. For example, instead of adding croutons to your salad, sprinkle on a few nuts to add protein and heart healthy fats. You'll find nuts to be a great addition to your healthy eating program.
Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2009-2020. Dr. Kristie Leong is a family practice physician and medical writer. Published with permission.